Coach Mike London and the Cavaliers will travel to Blacksburg to close out the 2010 season.
The talk was mostly all Tech this week at the John Paul Jones Arena. Mike London and the Cavaliers are gearing up for their final game of the 2010 season, and the mood around the team is still optimistic, despite what others outside the program might say.
“I don’t think anybody’s given us much of a chance in many games, so that’s been a motivation all year,” junior defensive tackle Nick Jenkins said.
The Virginia-Virginia Tech rivalry always has been a bitter one, and has become even more so for the Wahoos in recent years. The Hokies have taken the last six meetings, and Virginia hasn’t won in Blacksburg since 1998, when current staff member Anthony Poindexter was on the sidelines as a player rather than a coach.
“Well, first of all, I’ll try to get Dex to suit up again and we will see,” London joked.
Although Virginia Tech has owned the rivalry in recent years, the Hoos haven’t written themselves off yet as far as Saturday goes.
“They’re very sound in a lot of things that they do. We’ll have to play our best game. That’s why you practice. That’s why you play,” London said. “It’s the last game for us, and we’re looking forward to playing well and trying to send our seniors and fifth-year guys off on a positive note.”
The Virginia seniors have a lot to play for this weekend. Not only are they setting the tone for Coach London’s program, but they are also setting the tone for the remainder of their football careers.
“This is our bowl game because this is our last game,” senior wide receiver Dontrelle Inman said. “You’re only as great as your last game, that’s the one you remember.”
A Stacked Deck
The Hokies are rolling into this weekend’s game with a perfect ACC record after a couple of early mishaps against Boise State and FCS foe James Madison. It’s difficult to pin Tech’s success on one player, but senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor has certainly been a major factor in getting his team to 9-2 with a berth in the 2010 ACC Championship Game.
“I tell you what, you’ve seen a lot of people try to game plan him certain ways, but he’s such a phenomenal athlete that you’ve got to worry about doing some other things, but also being very conscious of where he is,” London said. “There’s no way you say you can defend him like this, like that, because he has all the tools, the arms, the legs to get out of it. He’s become a really good quarterback in terms of the passing game.”
Taylor’s statistics speak for themselves; the senior has racked up four rushing touchdowns in addition to his 2,082 passing yards and 19 passing scores. He now sits atop the Virginia Tech record books in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns by a quarterback, as well as total offensive yards. Limiting Taylor’s production will be a key to the game for the Hoos on Saturday.
Building Complete Players, Inside and Out
The candidness surrounding the team in the Mike London era has brought about fresh discussion of the impact the coaching staff has on the players. This year, London has been all about fostering a family atmosphere, on the field and off. Two of the main messages are staying positive and being supportive, which apply to many aspects of life, not just football.
“It’s hard enough as it is to win games, but the main thing that I always keep thinking about is they’re 18, 19, 20, 21 year old bodies, but still inside those bodies beat the heart of somebody’s child. It does me no good and them no good to ridicule or belittle them,” London said. “And this year, ladies and gentlemen, this has been a tough year for us – adversity with our players, with Colter Phillips losing his father, with Corey Moseley’s uncle tragically losing his life a couple weeks ago.”
London’s first year as head coach has been filled with ups and downs, and the way he has handled those difficult times, on and off the field, speaks volumes about his character and the types of lessons he’s teaching the Virginia players.
“This is a game that you want to win. But the bigger picture for me right now is educating and embracing the guys who need someone to put their arms around right now,” he said. “And that’s my approach to this whole thing. I want to win the game, but I also want to train up and be a mentor and role model to players that when something bad happens, and it’s happened a lot this year, that we’re not looking to run and hide.”
The Next Generation
With the 2010 season coming to a close, it’s just about time to start looking toward the future. London and his staff have made significant strides in recruiting the state of Virginia, and getting the UVa message out to schools and areas where there may not have been much previous contact in recent years.
“I would hope that with the area in-state high school coaches that have known me – or some of the guys on the staff – we’ve been consistent with players that have been here at Virginia before. With the way we go out on the road and the way we recruit their players at their schools,” London said.
A lot of fans have bemoaned the on-field performances this year and the negative impact they might be having on the recruiting trail. London thinks otherwise – where others see problems and poor performance, players see opportunities.
Kris Burd has soared for five touchdowns this year.
“I think there is a connection that a lot of people, parents and players have with us despite what’s going on the field. Because let’s face it, as you watch us now there are probably a lot of young men that say I can play,” he said. “I can play there and I can play now, and they can.”
Cavalier wide receivers Kris Burd and Dontrelle Inman have been burning up the Virginia record books in tandem, becoming the first duo to each record 40 catches and 700 receiving yards. Burd, a junior, and the senior Inman even tackled the JPJ press room as a team, sharing the podium and discussing their successes this season.
Burd had a feeling all through camp that this year would be a special one for himself and his teammate. “It’s real exciting because all through the summer, winter workouts, training camp, we knew we would have to make plays,” he said.
Inman appreciates the opportunity he has had this season to contribute on offense, and enjoys the dual-threat combo he and Burd create for the Cavaliers. “When the opposing teams see us on film, it makes it harder to decide who to double team,” he said.
Inman needs two more catches to reach 50 on the year, a feat Burd has already reached. If both receivers pick up 50 yards against Virginia Tech, they will have 800 yards each this season. Their numbers are already unarguably singular, and should stand for some time. Sadly, Inman is in his last year of eligibility, so there won’t be a repeat next season for the duo.
“I wish I had him back. That year he played as a true freshman, he didn’t play much – but it is significant when you have two that have over 40 catches in a season,” London said. “Dontrelle has gotten some looks, so I’m quite sure he’ll probably get in some camps. He’s kind of worked his way up into being a really good player that will give himself some opportunities here after his college season is over.”
Dontrelle Inman has recorded 395 receiving yards over the past three weeks – more than his first three seasons combined.
- Senior quarterback Marc Verica needs only 176 yards to become the sixth-ever UVa QB to throw for 5,000 over the course of his career.
- Keith Payne still leads the conference in rushing touchdowns despite missing last week’s game against Boston College.
- The Cavalier offensive line has been a bright spot this season, allowing only two sacks in its last 22 quarters of play.
- Virginia Tech has won 13 of the last 17 meetings between the Hokies and the Hoos.
- Virginia’s last win in the series came in 2003.
“It brings a joy just to know that I was able to contribute to the program.” – Dontrelle Inman on his breakout senior season.
“I said I scored, Burd said I didn’t.” – Inman on his almost-but-not-quite-a-touchdown catch.
“There are always two countdown clocks in the locker room – one for the next game and one for Virginia Tech.” – sophomore linebacker Steve Greer .
“Tough talk doesn’t win games for you. Tough play does. So we’re going to try to play tough, and we know it’s a rival game. We know all the other things that go on with it, but we are excited about the opportunity.” – Mike London on this week’s game.
“I’m not a Virginia native, but being in the program you get brought up in it and you understand the importance.” – junior safety Dom Joseph on the UVa-VT rivalry.